Resistance to programmed cell death is one of the hallmarks of cancer cells that aff ects the process of malignant transformation as well as response to cancer therapy. The goal of this review is to summarize recent information about programmed cell death (PCD) in healthy and cancer cells, as well as new perspectives for anticancer treatments targeting these signaling pathways. Three main types of PCD are described in detail: apoptosis, necrosis/ necroptosis and cell death associated with autophagy. Among them, apoptosis plays the key role in both malignant transformation and response to therapy. In this review, we describe main signaling pathways and molecules participating in apoptosis regulation in healthy cells. In most cancer cells, mutations or aberrant expression of proteins directly or indirectly involved in induction and execution of cell death can be detected – p53, Bcl- 2 family proteins, inhibitors of apoptosis, death receptors/ ligands and other proteins. Mutations or changes in expression of these proteins and their relation to certain types of tumors are described. Finally, we provide a review of recently developed treatments that target and reactivate the machinery of programmed cell death and are currently tested in clinical trials.